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So Outer Mongolia, it does exist.

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Howdy friends. Apologise for the clock bait title of my last post. I thought it was funny even if no one else did…

So we flew that very day to Mongolia. The flight from Heathrow to Russia was fine and we had the best Russian dining at Msocow airport, TGI Fridays was the only place really open. We then flew at 7pm to Ulaanbaatar (Mongolias only city). The flight lasted 5:20 minutes but we got in at 7am. So we lost more time than we spent on the plane.

This messed with our body clocks a bit, so we slept most of the first day, we also had a bit of a sleep debt to pay back from last week.

We did end up there though, which was a win when you think about it. Lots of people have been confused why we wanted to come here, or even where here was, but I’ve always been tempted to go to he land of Ghenghis Kahn, and the nomadic warrior folk. After we spend two weeks here we are off to China for a week to see the great Wall and the terracotta (not panacotta unfortunately, although that would be delicious) army. But I move ahead of myself.

So Mongolia. Flying over it, it was very empty. I mean like really empty. It has 3 million people, half of which live in the one city and the country is 6 times the size of the UK.

When we landed we were hassled by a persistant taxi driver, who we managed to eventually deter for a licensed one. After going to the wrong hotel we eventually got to our destination.

Ulaan Baatar is a weird mixing of cultures. It has lots of Cyrillic signs (both Russian with 33 characters and Monglian with 35) and also English signs. The architecture is all new towerr block, old Russian communist buildings and temples and eastern structures.

The people look Asian, but not quite Chinese, with higher more American Indian cheekbones. Everyone is friendly and my very patchy Russian has helped me three times in interactions where English wasn’t working.

We met the tour group, a nice bunch as usual, but unlucky as four suffered eleven hour delays and five had late or missing luggage, we lucked out there. Three of them, Abi, Ed and Jackie, have to wait until Thursday to get their luggage, so Jo and I lent some clothes to ed and Abi as we are similar sizes.

On the first night Jo and I went with Ed and Abby went to a karaoke bar, of which there are a surprisingly large amount, and drunk vodka and sang. It certainly broke the ice, even if Ed could legitimately sing, always a problem when you aren’t great yourself.

We drunk some Chingis vodka (that’s what they call Genghis Kahn out here) and had a fun evening.

Culturally the country is diverse having been under the USSR until 1989, the religious areas are still recovering from communist purges. The people also have a lot of Korean exports and influences and hence the melting pot effect. Sachwiched between mighty China and the Soviet bear the country has an interesting feel. Both counties have been conquered and conquered Mongolia over the years and so their is a lot of mixing of concept.

We visited a buddist temple and a palace today and I felt like we intruded a little during prayer, but no one seems outraged. Still I guess they are quite nice to tourists in general so they probably forgive us dumb lugs standing in their way.

It a very smoggy here, a hot summer and industrial buildings in the centre of the city won’t have helped that. I’ve had a bit of a sore throat and Jo had been sneezing. I guess it’s going to be nothing compared to Beijing…

Tomorrow we head out to the Gobi desert and from there to the steppes. We will have a home stay with a random nomadic family they have to approach on the day itself, not knowing where they will be on any given day. I’m looking forward to the peace.  We will be staying in tents and travelling without signal, so it’s off into the wilderness again for us.

I suspect it will be a while before I blog again. I hope everyone reading this is having a nice few days. I’ll look out for you when I get back into the city in twelve days.

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